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China Throws Money at Kenya


In three years, Kenya hopes to add oil to its already strong exports of coffee and tea. A British-based oil firm hit it big in the East African country’s South Lokichar basin last year, and now Nairobi is hoping to ramp up production—potentially to more than 5,000 barrels a day—and begin exporting its oil.

To do so, Kenya will need to build out its energy infrastructure, and to do that, it’s going to need investors. To that end, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week, and on Monday China pledged $5 billion towards Kenyan energy and railroad projects. Reuters reports:

The cash would be spent on energy projects, a standard gauge railway linking the port of Mombasa in east Africa’s biggest economy to its border town of Malaba, meant to provide faster access from Kenya’s port to markets in the region, the presidency’s media service said in a statement on Monday. […]

China is already key player in Kenya, constructing capital-intensive flagship projects, mostly roads.

This is the latest example of China’s increasing interest in Africa. On the face of it, everyone gets something out of the deal: Kenya gets a much-needed boost to its underbuilt infrastructure, an important first step towards becoming an oil exporter. China gets to boost its global influence while simultaneously securing a potential future source of oil, which will be important in the coming years as China is set to overtake the US as the world’s largest importer of oil by 2017. This is also excellent news from an American perspective: China is becoming more involved in maintaining a peaceful, capitalistic global trade system, and Washington gets to piggy-back on Beijing’s efforts.

A lot more needs to happen between now and the day when Kenya starts shipping its oil abroad, but this is an encouraging first step.

[Oil pipeline photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Corlyss

    “China is becoming more involved in maintaining a peaceful, capitalistic trade system”

    Rushing to judgment just a bit, what?

    It’s hardly praiseworthy when it is 100% in China’s interest to expend the money to get first dibs on the product. Involvement where their only interest is in maintaining the viability of the existing international system without such glaringly obvious financial gain to themselves, THAT’S a sign of Chinese maturity and sense of responsibility to the international community worthy of notice. THAT’S praiseworthy, not the routine customarily ruthless self-interest the Kenya grab shows. It’s premature to find selfless interest in larger matters where none exists.

    • Thirdsyphon

      True, nobody’s apt to mistake China for Starfleet anytime soon; but selfless altruism isn’t a prerequisite for peaceful capitalist engagement.

      In fact, the whole philosophy of capitalism proceeds from the notion that there is a deep and abiding (but ultimately rational) selfishness at the heart of human nature. Restraining that nature from resorting to force and/or fraud is pretty much the full extent of what peaceful capitalism demands from us in terms of virtue. . . and even those rules can be bent (in moderation) without destroying the system.

      A willingness to quietly settle down and set about the work of exploiting others through business transactions rather than through war (or the threat thereof) is a major step forward on capitalism’s admittedly modest continuum of moral development. With luck, this new venture will prove to be vastly more profitable than the numerous regional micturition contests that China has been lately obsessing over.

      • Corlyss

        “selfless altruism isn’t a prerequisite for peaceful capitalist engagement.”

        Agree completely. That wasn’t my point. The tenor of the piece was that somehow this move is a sign of Chinese maturity and readiness to assume the role it’s wealth and interests dictate it assume . . . any day now. I just don’t see it as more than the typically selfish move of a colonizing power. And before conclusions are jumped to, I LOVE colonialism and all the benefits it brought to benighted and backwards tribes busy killing each other and selling the remnants of the defeated into slavery. I think the colonial age was one of the greatest engines of modernism and globalism and has yet to get its due from historians eager to prove they are not racist whites.

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